North Harper Creek Falls
5-18-08 - Good grief - it had been 6 years since I last visited this waterfall. That's pitiful for such a beautiful area. And this time I went down to see the waterfall not too far down the creek from this one that's in Kevin Adams' book - Chestnut Cove Branch Falls. This 3/4 mile trail is moderate in difficulty with tricky creek crossings where you will probably have to get your feet wet if water levels are normal and above. Not good for small children, but probably OK for kids with good coordination, some rock hopping experience, and will obey when you say 'do not go over there'.
Directions: From MP 311.3 on the Blue Ridge Parkway, turn south on SR1518 (Jonas Ridge Rd) and drive 1.7 miles to a church on the left. This section of SR1518 has recently been paved. Turn left (more like straight) on the gravel FR464 and drive 2.5 miles to FR58 at some primitive car camping sites. Turn right on FR58 and drive 1/4 mile down to the wide place in the road on the left. The trail begins at the sign and is #266.
Another option that may prevent you from getting your feet wet is to not turn on FR58, but continue down FR464 for a ways - I don't have a mileage, but maybe less than 2. Pass one trail for Little Lost Cove Cliffs, then continue to the next trail head on the right. It's for both #271A, the other end of the Little Lost Cove Cliffs Trail and #239 which is signed North Harper Creek Falls Trail. I came up this way in 2002, and don't remember it being that difficult. I can tell you from looking at the map that there's a change in elevation of maybe 400-500' in 1.3 miles crossing at least 1 small creek. It comes out on the trail not too far below the section of North Harper Creek Falls shown above. This might be a better option for a winter visit and for kids.
Back to trail #266 - as I mentioned, the trail crosses the creek several times. This section of the creek is really nice and has several cascade areas like the ones below.
The trail will take you to the top of falls where the creek begins a 200 foot slide down a huge rock face. If it's a dry day, you'll be able to walk down parts of the rock as the water rushes by you. It was raining on my 2008 trip and I didn't dare go down. These next 2 shots are from October 2002. Note the people way down in the 2nd shot. You can't safely get all the way down there on the rock, but you can see a section, then go into the woods on the left and down, then back out on the rock. However, the trail actually crosses at the top of the waterfall, then continues down the right side. It's not real obvious - look across for the trail opening on the other side, then pick the safest way. If water levels are high, this may not be safe at all.
The trail slowly descends to river level and comes out at a great camp site near the base of the waterfall. This bottom drop is about 40' and you can't see the sliding part at all.
Not too far down the trail is Chestnut Cove Branch Falls. Cross the creek again back over to the left side and continue down creek. Pass the left turn for trail #239 back up to FR464, then continue down along the falls which is another sliding cascade over rock face. The falls is actually on North Harper Creek - Chestnut Cove Branch comes in from the opposite side at the base of the falls.
Chestnut Cove Branch Falls
Chestnut Cove Branch Falls
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